Youth football players are at increased risk of concussion for one reason: their helmets don’t fit properly!
New research has found that the majority (74%) of football players’ helmets in youth football (7-12 years old) did not meet at least one component of the 13 criteria developed for proper football helmet fit. Improper fit is a critical risk factor for increased concussion symptoms and duration. Prevalence and Causative Factors of Improperly Fitted Helmets in Youth Football Leagues was presented as part of the 2020 NATA Virtual Clinical Symposia & AT Expo educational programming in July 2020.
The study consisted of 273 players across 24 teams in four recreation youth tackle football leagues. The research found that most common factors for improper fit were: lack of snugness on all sides (26%); crown of the helmet was not 1-2 fingers above eyebrows (26%); the facemask slipped up and down (36%) and the chinstrap did not equally fit on both side of the face (46%).
“As youth football players cautiously return to sport during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s critical that all safety factors, such as proper helmet fit, are taken into account to reduce the risk for critical head injury in this vulnerable population,” said Susan Yeargin, Ph.D., ATC, Associate Professor of Athletic Training at the University of South Carolina. “Players depend on their league to provide and fit helmets correctly, however, few leagues require coach education on helmet fitting or provide appropriate medical personnel to do the fitting properly, putting young athletes at risk for concussions with more severe and longer lasting symptoms.”
The data was collected before full contact started and all variables were collected in a station format so players could be examined on an individual basis without interrupting practice time. There was no difference between brands or sizes for fit.
The study abstract will be published in the Journal of Athletic Training, the scientific journal of the National Athletic Trainers’ Association, later this year.